Toespraak minister Van Engelshoven bij het Conservatorium Maastricht


Minister Van Engelshoven (OCW) sprak op 30 augustus 2021 bij het Conservatorium Maastricht, ter ere van de start van het nieuwe studiejaar in het hoger onderwijs. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar. [Let op: het gesproken woord geldt!]

Verantwoordelijke Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap
  • Hoger onderwijs
  • Cultuur
Documentsoort Toespraak
Publicatiedatum 30-08-2021
Documentdatum 30-08-2021
Onderwerp Kunst en cultuur

Dear friends, dear live stream viewers,

How well I remember my last visit to Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, here in Maastricht.

It was at the end of March, half an hour’s walk away, on the Brusselseweg. A small group of us gathered in the staff room, which had been converted into a talk show set, especially for the occasion. Students from Zuyd and Maastricht University were given an online opportunity to ask us questions about student life during the pandemic.

I vividly remember that almost every question was about in-person education: about the wish for face-to-face interaction with fellow students and teachers, even if just for 1 day a week.

At the time, infection rates were much worse, and only a very small section of society had been vaccinated. Almost all institutes of higher education were largely closed.

How different it is to be in Maastricht today.

To see students all around the city physically engaged in their trades and courses once again. And to join all of you, face-to-face, to enjoy these beautiful performances and celebrate that, from now on, the Conservatorium will enjoy the status of being an All Steinway School. What a magnificent achievement!

All of this is possible again, because from today the social distancing rule has been lifted in vocational and higher education. From today, over 1 million students and their teachers across the country will, once again, be able to meet in person.

Of course, there are still restrictions and rules to be followed.

But nevertheless: after 18 long months, students can once again study and learn together, through face-to-face interaction and discussion.

I am incredibly happy that we are able to take this big step forward. And I am deeply grateful to everyone who works and studies in higher education, for their commitment and perseverance over the past year and a half.

It cannot be said enough: the progress we’ve made, is thanks to your efforts.

Let us continue to work together and do everything we can to hold onto our renewed freedom.

Dear friends,

It means a lot to me to stand before you today, here in this impressive hall of the Conservatorium. For the programmes you teach here unite two precious causes that I have dedicated my heart and soul to in recent years: the power of art and culture, and the importance of free, international exchange.

As borders closed and our world became smaller during this crisis, the importance of borderless cooperation became clearer than ever before. Clearly, the vaccines that are helping us return to normality would have never been available so quickly without international cooperation.

But for me, the importance of this cooperation goes deeper still.

It enriches us as human beings to come into contact with other people, with surprising ideas and, especially at the Conservatorium, with new sounds.

It reminds me of the late James William Fulbright, a United States senator. Fulbright gave his name to the annual Fulbright grants, which I’ve had the honour of awarding a few times in recent years.

Every year, these grants give students, artists and scientists from all over the world the opportunity to study and teach in the United States, and vice versa. The programme is active in over 150 countries, including the Netherlands. Some of you may already be familiar with it.

Senator Fulbright was convinced that the cultural exchange of people and ideas was essential to stability in the world. He summed this up beautifully when he wrote:

The Fulbright program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into the world.

The truth of these words resonates to this day.

International exchange helps us see each other not as strangers, or even enemies, but as fellow human beings.

And in my opinion, that is precisely where the power of international cooperation and the power of art and culture meet. For with each painting, stage play and album, and with each photograph, film and performance, artists offer us a new perspective on what it means to be human, in all its complexity.

It’s truly painful to see how hard the pandemic continues to hit artists and the cultural sector. And in particular the many self-employed people who work in the sector.

Throughout the pandemic, I have been doing my very best to ensure that these self-employed professionals receive their fair share of the billions made available in emergency aid.

And while I am glad that the government has provided – and will continue to provide – this support, I also realize that it can never take away all the pain.

We have to face facts: this pandemic might be a temporary crisis, but it has highlighted some structural problems.

This means that we have to come up with structural solutions. In order to do so, we recently explored ways to boost the resilience of the cultural sector. Ways to improve the position of the people who work in this sector. And, of course, we also explored what is needed to make such a transition happen.

The facts and figures, recommendations and plans are all in place. Now it is up to the next government to put them into action.

I sincerely hope it will rise to the challenge.

After all, the power of the arts and culture sector is like the air we breathe: our society simply cannot live without it.

That’s why I’m so honoured to speak here. Because every year, students from all over the world come to the Conservatorium to immerse themselves in music, arts and culture. Every year, they get the chance to hone their talents here, and present their work to the public.

And every year, Conservatorium alumni enrich our human experience - here in the Netherlands, and far beyond our borders.

Dear friends,

We have not put this crisis behind us yet, but on a day like today optimism wins out.

For today, all students can finally share the same spaces again. They can finally meet each other again, without having to stay one and a half metres apart.

And I will do everything I can to ensure that, from the 20th of September, the cultural sector will be able to do the same.

For now, I wish you all a wonderful day of celebrations, and of course an inspiring year!

Thank you.